SOHH.com is a destination site for fans of hip hop music. The site was created in 1997 as a more cost-effective information alternative to a monthly print publication called 4Control Media, which launched two years earlier. SOHH.com, which is based in Jersey City, N.J., began as an online hip hop campaign to promote the musical genre on the internet.
Digital Content Business Challenge
SOHH.com faces the same challenges of all online publishers—providing content to an engaged audience and becoming profitable in the process. Being the main source for information and conversation has become the main goal for both traditional and new media publishers. Competing against music giants, SOHH.com's goal is to provide a destination that caters to its users' tastes and satisfies their demand for content in a variety of formats—including RSS news feeds, blogs, video, and audio. The ability to understand users' preferences is critical for building and maintaining a niche online community.
Vendor of Choice: FeedBurner
Founded in 2004, FeedBurner helps its publishing clients distribute, promote, and monetize content. Chicago-based FeedBurner, which was built on the idea of developing content distribution and management solutions, has adapted as the definition of a content publisher has evolved. The company serves mainstream publishers like Reuters and USA Today and caters to new media entities, including individual bloggers and blog sites such as Gawker. FeedBurner currently serves more than 350,000 publishers. www.feedburner.com
The Digital Content Problem in Depth
SOHH.com's main strength, according to CTO Steven Samuel, is publishing news—providing the latest hip hop-related content available while promoting the online presence of the music. The site has a staff of in-house writers that produce the content as well as a team of 10 writers based around the country who also contribute articles. In addition to news, SOHH.com's content offerings include blogs and a bulletin board.
SOHH.com needed a solution that would help the site better serve the visitors who rely on those news stories (who range in age from 15 to 25) by incorporating blogs and posts to keep them informed about the latest hip hop information. In all, SOHH.com has 3.5 million unique visitors each month, according to Samuel.
The key to serving these visitors is gaining a complete understanding of what content on SOHH.com they found most compelling and how they were using it. Samuel was initially forced to rely on user feedback. "Originally, I had a link on our syndication page that said if you're using our feeds, send me an email and let me know," says Samuel. "Some people did it and some people didn't."
But unreliable metrics were just one issue. Making the site (and its content) more profitable—and doing so without alienating site visitors who don't necessarily enjoy advertising—was also a challenge for SOHH.com.
"The first goal for most publishers is building an audience and figuring out what their audience is doing and who their audience is," says Jake Parrillo, publisher services associate for FeedBurner. "They know their content is being distributed, but they just don't have any sense of where it's going or what's happening to it. The ancillary area is the monetization. Publishers realize if they don't have an audience or don't know how big their audience is, they can't really wrap their arms around making money off it."